National Eating Disorders Association

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Wife with disorder

This is all new to me talking on a forum like this for help. I have read a few posts an see a lot of people feeling the same way I am. My wife has a eating disorder since she was in her teens and is 48 now. We have been together for about 16 years and believe me we have had some big fights and blowups over this. I know there is something more I can do I just don't know do. She puts on a good front for a while then it blows up and she goes through all the emotions of hate , guilt, feeling sorry for themselves, lonely, no one cares, don't let anyone in, and the anger. I love my wife but I don't know how much of this I can take. he is seeing a therapist but it doesn't seem to do much good. Only seems to bring things to the surface but nothing gets handled. Guess I'm looking for the miracle cure out there that I know doesn't exists. I hate to argue but after a while I get angry with all the anger back at me from her dealing with her issues. I know its not her but it wears on you. I cant imaging what it must be like in her shoes going through this. We could have a big fight or ordeal over eating then get back on track then out of the blue hell breaks loose. when it gets to that point nothing I say or do is any good and only makes her more angry an feel more alone. She talks of ending it all and I just can't listen t it anymore. I want to help but I don't know what to do. I try to talk to her but I'm either talking at her not to her or trying to fix it. I know the talking portion I need help with for sure. I just need help.


Hey M.

Yeah, the frustration of it all. It can really get to a person for sure. And then all the habits we've built up over the years, in our efforts to communicate with them. When none of it seems to have any effect I mean. It can be awfully discouraging I know.

But yeah, the "talking to her" part. Is there something we can change about that, so it doesn't just seem to be putting more distance between between us and them, rather than bringing us closer ?

You mentioned not being able to put yourself in her shoes, but do you think that that's really true ? That you can't imagine how it must be for her, I mean ?

If you were to try and think about that, how do you imagine it might be ?

Might some of her fears be the same ones that regular people have ? At their root, I mean ?

Just some thoughts. I hope you'll keep writing.

Thanks for the reply, it

Thanks for the reply, it helps knowing someone out there is listening. My wife showed me a video on you-tube that was funny but very to the point when it come to talking with her. It really resonates with me an I try to remember this when I talk to her.
Since I last posted in here we have been on even ground when talking to each other. Not god but not bad either. Hard for me sometime because I just want to fix things and that doesn't do anyone any good. Once you see the video you will understand. When we do talk it seems to leave everything open ended. Meaning she talks about things that are bothering her but nothing is resolved or even a general idea of a path to take. She says this helps here but can't see how. All it really does i let her cope for a few days then were back to where we started. Its a cycle and it get frustrating on my part because its the same thing over an over.
On the times I'm not driving myself crazy in being for her but as she calls it being the lost puppy at her side which see doesn't like, I get so confused on whet to do.
Once everything is on a good flow (easiest way to explain it) She apologizes all over the place about how she acted and things she did etc etc. I always tell her there is nothing to apologize for but she feels bad again but just for different reasons.
Not sure there is a point to all this more of just getting things out there off my chest that someone understands what im saying. Appreciate it.

Dear M,

Dear M,

That video was funny, but in an informative way. The way men and women discuss things you know ?

"When we do talk it seems to leave everything open ended. Meaning she talks about things that are bothering her but nothing is resolved or even a general idea of a path to take. She says this helps here but can't see how. "

I do a lot of writing on "another forum", and to be honest, I don't think it's always bad when things are left open ended. What happens in conversations like that is that people are considering things. It just helps for people to put things in words, and name issues. If things don't seem like they are resolved, that's probably OK. It's more that the words and topics are getting out there, and that matters are being considered.

People want to be known and be heard <— Keep this point in mind. Putting yourself in the other person's shoes - that helps them feel known. Just listening helps people feel heard. Conversations are not always about coming to a solution, sometimes they are just about saying.

"On the times I'm not driving myself crazy in being for her, but as she calls it being the lost puppy at her side, which see doesn't like, I get so confused on what to do."

EDs are some pretty complicated things alright, so it would pay to do some reading so that you'll have a better idea of what they are "about". For the person who has them I mean. Once it starts seeming like you "get it" about what they are up against, you won't feel so helpless, and seem much less like a lost puppy to her.

" Once everything is on a good flow (easiest way to explain it) She apologizes all over the place about how she acted and things she did etc etc. I always tell her there is nothing to apologize for but she feels bad again but just for different reasons."

I gotta tell you, for people who start realizing what their situation is, it really can be like that for them. They *really* don't want to be a burden on their loved ones, and can feel really guilty for that. Plus frequently they deal with a whole lot of self-hate. So it's no wonder that at certain times she finds herself apologizing for things which, from your standpoint, don't deserve apologizing for.

In any case, everything that DropThe says below is worth keeping in mind as well.

Particularly the part about how she is fortunate to have someone who cares as much as you do. I mean look at this forum : There are zillions of guys going through just what you are, but how many of them take the time to come to a place like this and try and get some understanding or help.

Not very many, but you have.

Bob J

re: Wife with disorder

Hi mbohnenk--I saw your post and just wanted to say welcome to the forums! I'm so glad you found us and I think you'll find the community here very supportive and (hopefully) helpful.

I also wanted to quickly respond to one part of your post above. As a former ED sufferer myself, I can really relate to your wife's desire to talk through things without the aim of reaching a solution. We all have a tendency to think through problems in a very linear fashion, but with a problem as big as ED, there's just no catch-all answer or fix and the path to a solution is never linear (as you note above). Sometimes it's just helpful to talk through everything as a way to process feelings and make more sense of them. Especially for people who are external processors rather than internal processors, talking can be the end in itself, not just a means to an end, if that makes sense.

Anyway, I'm sure your wife immensely appreciates you being there for her, even when it's just sitting and listening and feeling useless! I know how frustrating this type of thing has been for my own partners, who naturally have wanted to do everything they can to make it better. But in the end, I was the only person who could do that. I'm so impressed that you're putting so much effort into listening to what she says she needs from you--that's such an important first step. You're working really hard and doing a lot of good things in a tough situation that doesn't come with a handbook or any set guidelines about how to deal.

Make sure you take care of yourself, too. I hope you continue to find support on the forums--we're always here if you need us!

We are listening

We are listening

I read your post and it left me with a heavy heart. I didn't dare to write then.
I'm sure many of us here are going through very similar situations. You can check some posts and they will resonate with what you're living yourself. It has made a point of inflection for me, as I was asking myself a lot the question "What am I doing wrong?" or "how's my love not enough to maker her feel a bit better?" "How doesn't she see I'm in her team, on her side?" And finding out many things come from this sickness,not our relationship, helped me face it in a different way.

I always answer with fear,what if I say something that doesn't help at all? What if someone tries what I advice and that makes things worse? Keep in mind these are my thoughts and experience, but every person is different.

Sometimes it feels like everything is worse than before, that no progress is real. And that sucks. But we gotta keep doing the things we know are right, and also learn as much as we can so we drop the things that are not helping, and we thought they did.

Listening always help. It's true it feels many times as something that leads to nothing, and it feels the conversation is the same over and over again and things don't get solved. It's like doing the dishes, you're gonna have to do it again tomorrow,it doesn't solve the thing forever,but you need to keep doing it.

When they talk, they are doing something positive. We are tired, and neglected, and hurt many times, and maybe we just need to rest. But we have been trying to help so many times when it wasn't posible, so now it's our chance, and we have to take it. Even if it is just to show them we are still here. It does help.

What doesn't help is trying to say what they are not seeing. That led to countless arguments. She doesn't see "the nail" ,if we say we see it, it will just make them freak out. Some days you will feel she's not going to be rational, and many times it will be true, this is, after all, a mental illness. You can learn to anticipate that moment, and then remember you are the rational one. You have to retreat before both of you are hurt. It's hard as hell. Because you have feelings, and you want her to know you haven't done anything to deserve her rage...but you have the tools to stop the fight, she doesn't.

In a way, even if you are in this together, we have to asume we are alone, and they are alone. You can't carry her load, and she can't carry yours. You do a great thing being there for her, but you also have to find ways to feel better yourself, to charge your batteries. You have to make peace with things you won't be able to fix, even if they are so wrong. Sometimes you'll need to take a step back, and find something to do for yourself.

Something I read here,very simple but very helpful: we can only help them lowering their anxiety levels. Everything you want to say or do, ask yourself if you do that to lower her stress, and evaluate the same after you do/say something. You cannot convince her, change her, trick her, fix her, or snap her out of it. All of that will lead to frustration, you just can make life a little less scary for her, and that's the way. There will be a hundred other things and people who will do just the opposite, even herself, so you are fighting against a giant, an army of giants. So don't despair if you feel small, and you advance so slowly. It's the only way.

I fail and fail and fail, then I write here, and gain some confidence again. So keep writing. There are many good people here that will offer their kindness and their insights, both very valuable.

To Rogers.

The part about it being like doing the dishes. I'm going to remember that one, because it really does describe how things need to be sometimes.

"What doesn't help is trying to say what they are not seeing. "

This is so true as well. It's their journey, and people need to come to conclusions on their own for certain truths to have the power that they need to have.

Even though it's plain to us, we can't pull out the nail for them.


I am in the same boat

mbohnenk, I know how you feel. I am in the same boat. Everything was going fine for years and out of nowhere, her eating disorder came to the forefront. I want nothing more than to help her and be supportive. I suffer from depression, so this is very very difficult to help her, throw my feelings and emotions to the back burner, and not destroy myself at the same time. I know there is a balance. I don't know how to find it. I love my wife more than anything in this world. I would never do anything to intentionally hurt her. Rodgers12, your post was very helpful. It is good to know that I am not the only one. I have felt alone and like no one understands how I feel and the battles I face. I never knew who to talk to.

Wife has a problem with her weight

I've been married to the same women for the past 24 years. She is now 62. When I married her, she weighed a certain amount. She looked good!, Since then she has lost alot of weight, this has been gradual over the past 15 years or more. She refuses to discuss the subject, and it frustrates me as well as our grown daughters, who are also very concerned. I recently went to see a eating disorder psychologist to see if there was something I could do to get her help. I was told she is classical Anorexic. She has this view of herself that she is beautiful. She is still beautiful but she is as skinny as some gals are obese and neither one is very appealing. As a result, we have drifted apart both romantically and emotionally. I fear if something doesn't change then we will not survive. I've tried on numerous occasions to talk to her but she refuses to admit she has a problem. For the record she appears to be quite healthy, has a ton of energy, could easily walk a certain amount of miles, have a drink of water and do it again. She works out a lot, and never gets sick. However, I have never seen a report from her doctor in regards to her physicals, assuming she is having them, she tells me she is, and I'm floored that her doctor has not gotten on her about her weight.

The thing that is most puzzling is that other than denial of her weight, she does not exhibit any of the classical eating disorder physical symptom, for instance, her hair is thick as ever, her skin is not any drier than normal for a northern climate, her nails are fine, she doesn't get bloated or have constipation, I could go on and on about what she doesn't have, at a glance she seems to be the picture of health, in fact she gets comments to that point. Is it possible she can be clinically underweight yet perfectly healthy?

I don't know what to do! Any suggestions. The psychologist mentioned as a last resort some kind of intervention, or maybe even an ultimatum. The problem with the ultimatum is I think she would rather be divorced than gain a few pounds, it makes no sense!

Post Edited

Hi novakj!We are glad that you are finding support here on the NEDA forums. A portion of your post was edited and deleted due to the mention of specific numbers and behaviors that may be triggering to other forum members. Our community guidelines are always available to review here: In the event you need further assistance please call the NEDA helpline at 1-800-931-2237 (Monday-Thursday, 9:00AM-9:00PM, Friday, 9:00AM-5:00PM, EST).
Again, thank you for posting, and we hope you will continue to do so!


Hey Novak,

You wrote : " The problem with the ultimatum is I think she would rather be divorced than gain a few pounds, it makes no sense! "

One of the sayings you often hear about ED's is this one : "It's not about food." Because once you start looking at things from the psychological standpoint, things can sometimes start to make a little a more sense.

Because as you said, it's probably not normal that she's so defensive about her weight, and the lengths she goes to keep losing.

Two of the big psychological themes behind EDs are A ) Being in control, and B ) Being "good enough". At her ( our !) age it's possible to worry about death and mortality too.

And really, who in our society could complain about "health" ? And who would deny that "self-discipline" is a positive thing ? The control that's involved, you know ? And being "good enough"….isn't that one of the reasons that people go to the gym ? So it's easy to see where she could find herself getting defensive, if anyone dares to imply there's "a problem".

However, one of the red flags in all this is the inflexibility that I suspect you are seeing. Would she be able to take a few days off from the gym without being hit with anxiety ? Could she joke about over-eating on the holidays, like most people can ?

There's often a certain obsessional aspect to EDs, and as you are seeing, that can play into relationship problems too. With good reason, you worry, while she knows that no one else really quite "gets it" about why it's essential for her to continue on as she's going, if she's going to keep anxiety at bay. These two feelings combined can do a number on intimacy for sure.

It's hard to know how to convince her that there's "a problem" , but perhaps she might agree that the fact that you and the rest of the family are worried would count as a problem right there ? That and the intimacy issue ?

With the way that people with EDs can sometimes be, sometimes you need to approach things initially from a different angle than going straight at the eating and weight part. These intimacy issues seem like reasonable ones to me, and she might agree, so perhaps the place to start might be with couples counseling ?

Because who would deny that better relationships are not worth working on ?

Keep writing?

do something together

Also make part of her counseling couples counseling. Otherwise give her space and dont reinforce her purging but instead whenever she does something Healthy, and fun w/ you.